Friday, May 17, 2024


Shays Addresses Numerous Topics in Westport Forum Image
U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays responds to a question from the audience during a community forum today at the Westport Public Library. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jennifer Connic for
By Jennifer Connic

U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-4, addressed a variety of topics at a Westport Public Library community meeting today, but most of the time was spent on questions and concerns about the war in Iraq.

Shays told the crowd in the McManus Room that he would spend the final 30 minutes of his scheduled 90-minute community forum on the topic, but some disagreed with his decision and walked out and voiced concern with it.

“I spend a lot of time talking about Iraq,” he said. “I have no reluctance on talking about Iraq, but I have other issues I need to address. People say Iraq clouds other issues, and I have a long list of other issues here.”

In addition to Iraq, Shays took on a change in the flight patterns for LaGuardia Airport, term limits, global warming and illegal immigration. But the war in Iraq dominated his time.

Shays said one of the biggest issues is to get Iraqis to talk with their neighbors, specifically with Syrians and Iranians.

Americans are speaking with representatives from those countries, he said.

“It might not be as much as you like, though,” he said. “And we are encouraging the Iraqis to talk to their neighbors.”

There were mistakes made early in the process, he said, including disbanding the Iraqi army and police.

He likened the situation with the army and police as if all of the police in the entire state of New York was disbanded and replaced with 150,000 people who could not speak the language.

“They would have no impact,” he said.

Success in Iraq can happen when those troops are replaced, Shays said, and the people can provide their own security and protect themselves.

Leaving Iraq should be the same way that going into Iraq happened, he said, which is on a bi-partisan basis.

Both sides need to work together, he said, but it’s not happening yet.

He believes based on his calculations the best time to start drawing down troops in Iraq will be in 2009.

On global warming, Shays said everyone needs to find their own way to conserve, but he and others are looking to pass legislations to create systems where sports utility vehicles need to have the same gas mileage as cars and create incentives for renewable energy.

Global warming needs to be dealt with in other ways, however, and that could mean nuclear energy, he said.

“We need to come together—Democrats and Republicans—and find some solutions,” he said.

He commented that he believes young people are not interested in politics and what the older generations are doing because of the stance on the environment.

“The young people think we don’t care about them because of how we deal with the environment,” he said. “They can’t have a world to live in if we keep this up.”

On illegal immigration, Shays said there should be a system where a “blue card” is created so people can come to the United States to work, travel home to their families and return.

They would not have the privileges that come with a green card, he said, but they would be able to work in the United States.

He is most concerned about the farming situation from Arizona to Washington, he said, and the plan would allow people to come here to work on those farms.

The current illegal immigrants would need to register, he said, and he doesn’t think it would be prudent to round them up and deport them.

He is concerned about legalizing the current illegal immigrants because it could cause a population surge of close to 40 million people because they could bring children and siblings to this country.

Two decades ago, 3,000 illegal immigrants were legalized, he said, and it made the country’s population surge by several million.

With the system, he said, he would want heavy fines for employers who use illegal immigrants, and he would also have no problems with sending people home if they did not register.

Shays also addressed questions about Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his future.

“I think he is history and will be out quickly,” he said.

The administration has not been honest to Congress about the matter, he said.

The biggest challenge with the president, Shays said, is that he is loyal to his friends.

“The big problem is loyalty trumps everything,” he said.

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